TUSCALOOSA — Avery Johnson appeared out of place.
He intentionally — and proudly — wore the colors of a division rival to which his Alabama team had already lost this season. The Crimson Tide coach immediately pointed out his necktie, predominantly red with splotches of blue, before discussing his team’s 80-65 win against LSU late Tuesday night.
“One of the reasons I wore this tie tonight was for somebody who had what I think was a terrific run at Ole Miss and that’s coach Andy Kennedy,” Johnson said to open his postgame news conference.
The Southeastern Conference’s longest-tenured coach, Kennedy announced Monday he’d step down at the season’s conclusion after 12 seasons in Oxford.
“When you’re in the SEC and you build relationships with coaches — sure we’re all trying to recruit some of the same players and it’s very competitive and win games — but when a guy transitions out of the league for whatever reason, it affects all of us coaches,” Johnson said. “This is a tough, tough, tough job and Andy did it in a first-class way with a lot of character.”
Kennedy won 20 or more games nine times and led two Ole Miss teams to the NCAA Tournament.
In his three seasons, Johnson’s Crimson Tide teams were 2-2 against Kennedy-led Rebels teams, including a 78-66 loss in Oxford on Jan. 23.
“He embraced me when I first arrived as being one of the senior members as a head coach in the SEC,” Johnson said. “I just want to wish him well, I had a chance to text back and forth with him, and I’m sure he’s going to have plenty of options after this year.”
Kennedy’s impending departure leaves Georgia’s Mark Fox and Kentucky’s John Calipari as the conference’s longest-tenured coaches. Both took their respective jobs in 2009.